Sound processor serves as 2nd ear
Susan Moore has recently gone through a life-changing experience; she has come away from a successful cutting-edge tumor surgery with a greater appreciation for the world around her and hopes others may benefit from what she has gone through.
A leader in the local Habitat for Humanity program and wife of Buena Vista University's President Fred Moore, the always-active Susan had been experiencing gradual hearing loss.
"Like most people, I thought, 'Well, that's not a big deal' and ignored the situation," she said, adding that her family began to tease her and eventually realized that it wasn't a laughing matter. They convinced her to see a specialist.
Dr. Wellendorf of Carroll tested her hearing at the specialty clinic at Buena Vista Clinic, establishing a baseline.
Six months later, her hearing had decreased even more. The doctor was suspicious at the hearing loss in only one ear and suggested the problem could be an acoustic neuroma, a tumor on the auditory nerve. Susan was told she had about 1 in 100,000 odds of having such a tumor.
The test results showed the difficult truth.
The tumor was located on the eighth cranial nerve which runs from the brain into the ear. Intertwined with that hearing nerve are nerves that control balance and facial functions; by this point, Susan was experiencing balance problems as well.
Surgery was recommended. She didn't hesitate.
"The good news was that it was benign," Susan said. "The bad news was that I could lose my hearing or the facial or balance nerve could be cut during surgery."
The family began researching acoustic neuroma. They were referred on to an Omaha specialist who confirmed the diagnosis and were referred on to House Ear Clinic in Los Angeles, one of the best facilities in the nation.
Dr. House, they learned, had invented a microscopic surgical procedure used in the facility today; prior to that time, mortality rates for someone having surgery to remove a tumor such as this was 40 percent.
The Moores knew they were in the best place they could be.
"It was frightening," she said of the anticipation of surgery. "At the same time, there was so much love and support." Her husband and the couple's daughter Allison were with her.
Options were given to the family. Either surgery to remove the tumor or radio-surgery which would consist of radiology treatments to shrink the tumor and follow-up appointments for the rest of her life.
"We felt wonderful," she said. "The success rates for surgery were great and I wanted to get it out. I knew it would be tough but I wanted to live my life without wondering what's going on. We felt peace. We had researched, prayed and consulted."
It was discovered that Susan's hearing had been destroyed by the prolonged growing of the tumor and was irreparable, something they had planned for. So they opted for the Bone Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA). A titanium screw was implanted in her skull during the five-hour surgery. A small device that serves as a sound processor can be attached to the screw and serves as her second ear.
No facial nerve damage was scene by the surgeon but as she was coming out of recovery, it was apparent there was some damage. She was assured that things would return to normal, which they have.
The surgery, performed in January, went well. President Moore kept friends and family up to date with a computer blog. She spent five days in the hospital. The family became acquainted with others at the hospital going through the same surgeries and have talked on chatrooms since returning home with men and women diagnosed with acoustic neuroma. The sites provide "support" and "encouragement", Susan said.
The first three months following the surgery were a time of recovery and to regain strength. A tiny incision behind Susan's ear is the only scar she has. She has been experiencing pressure headaches but has discovered that physically therapy helps.
"I'm so grateful for Kit Munden (at Sports Rehab) and her expertise in the mild massaging techniques" that ease the pain. Doctors have said the headaches should eventually go away - but for now - she is dealing with them.
"I will never forget that experience," said Susan. "I see a different side of life that I hadn't seen. I have grown spiritually. My hope is when I get off-track in my everyday life, I will remember that family, friends, compassion and being grateful are the important things in life. These are all gifts from God."
She is truly grateful also for the doctors who discovered the problem when they did. If nothing had been done, the tumor, though benign, could have been fatal.
Susan hopes her story will forewarn others who may be experiencing any of those three symptoms that could be associated with an acoustic neuroma - loss of hearing in one ear, facial paralysis or balance problems - to get in to the doctor as soon as possible.
She also is so pleased with the BAHA and stressed that others who may be experiencing hearing loss in one ear but good hearing in the other for any reason may be a good candidate for such a device which will allow hearing in both ears.
BAHA surgery doesn't need to be done in California, Iowa hospitals are performing the same techniques.
"People at BV and the community have been wonderful," Susan said. She is back at her University duties and serving is busy as ever as the President of Buena Vista County Habitat for Humanity.
"I'm looking forward to a wonderful future."